Myanmar. Government to help in upgrade of rice quality as exports hit high

05.03.2018

Myanmar will likely export at least 3.2 million tonnes of rice by the end of the current 2017-18 fiscal year by month-end taking rice exports to their highest level in 70 years, according to officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI).

“According to government estimates, we have exported 3.2 million tonnes of rice to this day (March 4). The numbers could increase if we continue exporting,” MOALI Permanent Deputy Secretary U Myo Tint Tun told The Myanmar Times on Sunday.

The estimate was confirmed by Union Minister U Aung Thu, who quoted similar numbers during a farmers’ roundtable talk on March 2 in Danubyu, Ayeyarwaddy Region.

However, Myanmar is still mainly exporting average-grade rice to China, implying that the country is still overly reliant on its neighbour. As such, the country should take steps to improve its rice quality for better value while expanding its market beyond China to diversify risk.

While representing a step in the right direction, that move will see Myanmar farmers face stiff competition from existing high-grade rice exporting countries like Thailand, India and Vietnam.

In that light, farmers at the roundtable sought government help to gain access to long term, low-interest loans, the lack of which is “the main hindrance to low rice productivity,” said Danubyu farmer U Thein Aung during the talk.

“Farmers risk high losses because of weather changes, pests, volatile prices and other factors. On top of all that, we have to service high-interest loans to help pay off losses and as a result, our children have to work in large cities and foreign countries to repay the debt,” he said.

The government recently raised the volume of loans available to farmers to K150,000 per acre of farmland from K100,000 before and is now enjoying the support of the Japanese in extending two-step loans to the sector.

“The issue is when loan amounts increase, the burden on farmers is much heavier in the event of default or losses due to weather changes or price fluctuations,” said U Hla Kyaw, deputy minister for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.


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